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A Weapon of Choice VI
The sixth installment our pen related serial
from the fountain pen of Myra Love
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 Chapter VI

The fifteen minute break dragged on for twenty-five. Miss Carswell stuck her head into the room but withdrew it when she saw that no one had returned.
Finally they came back. Dr. McCallister's lawyer had a sealed bag with three tear gas pens in it. It could see them through the transparent plastic, but I didn't see my Esterbrook.
Miss Carswell came back in right after the school folks and their lawyers. She sat down and took out a fountain pen and notebook again, but this pen was different. It was kind of marbled blue, actually closer to turquoise in color, and I thought it was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen in my life. I kept staring at it just because I couldn't keep my eyes off it.
Suddenly I felt a tug at my arm. "Jason, pay attention," my mom whispered, and I looked up to find Miss Carswell's eyes fixed on me.
"Jason," she said, "would you come up here, please?"
"Yes, ma'am," I replied and stood up immediately. I walked over to the desk and stood looking at her, waiting. She didn't say anything, but extended a small plastic bag and asked, "Jason, is this your pen?"
I took the bag and looked at it. The pen was definitely not Grandpa Edgar's Esterbrook. It was a green pen all right, but the color was the only thing it had in common with mine.
I looked up at her and shook my head. "No," I replied. "It's not my pen. I don't think it's an Esterbrook at all. I'm not sure it's even a fountain pen. Besides, that pen has a cap on it, and the cap to my pen is in my pocket." I reached into my pocket and pulled out the pen's cap and offered it to her. She took it, looked at it, and handed it back to me.
Her face got really grim, but all she said to me was, "You may sit down, Jason. Thank you."
As I walked to my chair, I felt as if the temperature in the room dropped twenty degrees.
"Mr. Willard, Dr. McCallister, what is the meaning of this?" Miss Carswell's asked softly, but her voice sounded like a whip cutting through the air.
"A mistake, Miss Carswell," Dr. McCallister replied smoothly, but there was a touch of strain in his voice. "Mr. Willard must have accidentally picked up the wrong pen."
"Yeah, that's right," Mr. Willard replied, looking down at the floor. "Sorry about that."
A silence of about thirty seconds followed. "Very well," Miss Carswell replied. "You will bring the right pen when we re-convene after dinner."
"After dinner?" Dr. McCallister echoed. "Will that be necessary?"
Miss Carswell stared at him. "After dinner," she repeated firmly.
I felt my mom squeeze my arm. When I looked up at her, she looked elated,, but I felt a little sick to my stomach. Why hadn't they brought my pen?
"What I'd hoped to do," Miss Carswell announced, "was get a look at the tear gas pens and the Esterbrook to see if there was any grounds whatsoever for mistaking one for the other. However, that will not be possible at the moment."
I looked at her with a perplexed expression. She had two fountain pens with her and I was willing to bet from the way she'd talked about pens that she knew lots about them and had others at home. So why didn't she just say that a green Esterbrook looked as much like a tear gas pen as Dr. McCallister looks like Miss America?
"Jason, please do not grimace at me," she said severely. "I know what I'm doing."
Dr. McCallister saw her reprimand of me as an opportunity, so he jumped up. "Miss Carswell, it's exactly that sort of behavior that got him into trouble at school."
She glared at him, and her expression was nearly as perplexed as mine had been just a couple of seconds earlier.
"Excuse me, sir," she said in a soft but cold voice, "but as far as I understand the matter, the issue here is not whether Jason made a face at you but whether he brought an object that violated a valid regulation to school and whether that regulation was enforced fairly."
The principal's face got very red, but he sat down without saying a word. I looked at his lawyer who was writing furiously on a yellow legal pad with a mechanical pencil. The pencil reminded me that I wanted to get a closer look at the fountain pen Miss Carswell was using. I looked up and made eye contact with her. She narrowed her eyes in response, and I looked away. Just because she had and used fountain pens didn't mean she was on my side, I reminded myself, but I found myself hoping that she could at least be fair. Then it hit me. I didn't just want her to be fair. I wanted her approval. I felt my face flush. I wanted her to like me just the way I wanted Mr. Harmon to like me. I was so shocked by my sudden insight into my feelings that I almost missed what happened next.
"Before we break for dinner, however," she continued, "I'd like to ask you a few questions, Mr. Willard."
I was still lost in my own astonishment at my sudden insight into my feelings when Mr. Willard stood up and crossed his arms over his chest. His motion brought my attention back into the moment "Ask away," he said, glaring belligerently at Miss Carswell. "I don't have much more to tell you than what I already said."
She nodded. "Just a few questions." She shuffled the notes she'd taken earlier, looked down at them briefly, and then smiled faintly at Mr. Willard.
"You heard Jason's account of your interaction with him at the time you confiscated his pen."
He nodded.
"Do you have anything to add to his account or do you disagree in any way the substance of what he had to say?"
He shrugged. "He had an attitude. I had to fight to get that pen out of his hand. And then he ordered me to cap it."
"Did you throw his pen on the floor?"
"I was aiming for the desk."
"And you missed?"
He smirked. "Yeah, I missed."
"Did you retrieve the pen from the floor after Jason left the room?"
Mr. Willard shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. "I guess so," he replied.
"You guess so?" Miss Carswell repeated sarcastically.
"Well, I must have. Or else the janitor did later in the day."
She narrowed her eyes. "Mr. Willard, do you have Jason's Esterbrook?"
"Not with me," he replied.
"At school?" she persisted.
He shrugged again. "I'm not sure."
"At home then?"
"Uh, no, I never took it home."
"If I order you to bring the pen back after dinner, Mr. Willard, will you be able to do so?"
He smirked again. "I can't rightly say. I haven't seen it around for a while."
I felt queasy and wondered if I could get up and walk out to the water fountain near the men's room without throwing up.
"I think I've heard enough," Miss Carswell said. Her voice sounded angry. "You have one hour for dinner," she announced to the assembled group. "And you, Mr. Willard, will bring Jason's pen back here at the end of that hour."
She stood up, picked up her pen and notebook and started towards the door. Before I had a chance to leave, however, I heard her call my name and my mother's.
"Jason, Amanda, follow me, please!" she said. We reversed direction and walked up towards the desk and door behind it. She held the door open for us, and we followed her into a small room that I hadn't noticed before.
The room was bare, except for a table and a chair. On the table was the fedora hat I'd seen when Miss Carswell let me use her pen before the hearing. There was also a leather case. Miss Carswell walked over to the table and opened the case and put the beautiful pen inside of it between the Sentinel and another pen with a metal cap. Then she turned and offered the chair to my mother.
"You don't mind, do you, Jason, if we let your mother sit down. There is only one chair, after all."
I could tell that mom really didn't want to sit down, but she was too intimidated by Miss Carswell to refuse.
I looked at Miss Carswell who was looking intently at me. She smiled, and it was a real smile, not a smirk.
"Are you holding up okay?" she asked gently. "You looked a little green in there for a minute."
I nodded. "The pen is gone, isn't it?" I asked. I couldn't help myself.
She grimaced. "I'm afraid so. I'm very sorry, Jason."
I nodded again, feeling almost as empty as right after Grandpa Edgar had died. "That's why he didn't bring it back with him, isn't it?"
"Most likely," she replied. "He tried to pass off a green roller as an Esterbrook. What a fool!" She shook her head and snorted, much to my mother's consternation.
"So what happens now?" I asked.
"Shh," my mother hushed me.
Miss Carswell looked at her. "It's all right, Amanda," she said, and my mother nearly fell off the chair.
"If Mr. Willard comes back without your pen, I shall hold a conference with Mr. DeContreni and Dr. McCallister as well as Mr. Willard. I shall inform them that I have reason to believe that your property was wrongfully and maliciously destroyed and ask them to make restitution. In fact, I may share my suspicions with Mr. DeContreni before we resume our hearing since he has no vested interest in blaming you and may therefore be more likely to listen to reason."
"And the suspension?" my mother asked.
"I haven't decided what to make of that," Miss Carswell replied.
My mom started to protest, but this time I hushed her. "It's okay, Mom. She's fair. Whatever she decides will be right."
My mom looked at me in amazement.
"But it was so obviously unjust," she protested.
I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. "I'm willing to let Miss Carswell decide. And I think you should too."
"Very well, then," Miss Carswell interjected. "Now you two need to get something to eat and come back here in time for the rest of the evening's entertainment."
Mom stood up, but I wasn't sure she'd be able to walk on her own, she was so bewildered.
"Entertainment?" she echoed, looking at Miss Carswell.
"The fun is just beginning, Amanda," the old woman replied, her eyes narrowing. "I'm sorry your pen was destroyed, Jason," she added. "I think Mr. Willard is going to be sorrier, though."
As we were leaving she added, "By the way, you can send Ed Conley home. No need to pay him for any more hours than you have to."

 


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